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The Hub’ sparks academic dialogue

Sara Felsenstein | Thursday, October 28, 2010

Notre Dame students recently launched the Hub, a new online academic networking site created to facilitate intellectual discussion across various disciplines.

The Hub is completely user-generated, depending on contributions from Notre Dame students, faculty and staff.

The site consists of three main areas: “Commons,” which is a place for users to share personal experiences and get involved, “Think Tank,” which acts a platform for discussion on local, national and global issues and “Showcase,” which allows users to post some of their best research or artwork.

Notre Dame is one of the first universities in the country to support such a site, Co-Editor-in-Chiefs Kirsten Adam and Paul Baranay, both juniors, said.

Adam and Baranay said with the Hub, they hope to redirect some of the energy that students exhibit on the Internet to a more professional, intellectual arena.

“Students are already used to talking about their lives online with social networking. Moving that into a Notre

Dame-focused place like the Hub is a … natural direction,” Baranay said.

Adam said that unlike Facebook and Twitter profiles, which are generally hidden from employers, profiles on the Hub are something students should put forward.

“It’s a very professional environment. It’s something you tell [future employers] about, not that you try to hide,” Adam said. “You can update your profile to be a mini resume online — it becomes a living document.”

Adam said the Hub is also about getting advice from others in the Notre Dame community and addressing communication issues between students in different colleges.

“It’s been a really interdisciplinary project,” she said. “We’re sponsored by CUSE, and pulling in money from [various] academic departments.”

Baranay said other universities have networking sites similar to the Hub, but theirs are based on more of a social model. The Hub’s focus is much more academic.

“CUNY [The City University of New York] has a site called the CUNY Commons, which is not as specific as the Hub,” he said. “In terms of prestigious universities, Notre Dame is the first one pushing towards this [kind of thing].”

Adam and Baranay began actively working on the Hub last May. They met with senior Cristin O’Connor over the summer, who was developing the site’s layout and design.

“In terms of the architecture — that was mostly done by OIT-affiliated students,” Baranay said.

Baranay said former professor of Anthropology Daniel Lende originally came up with the idea for blogs spotlighting research and academic engagements at Notre Dame. Lende then contacted Cecilia Lucero, assistant director of Undergraduate Research in the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE). Lucero got in touch with Adam and Baranay, who have been working on the project ever since.

Lucero is the current advisor for the Hub.

“We have a big mix of people on the editorial team,” Baranay said. “Everyone has different interests, which is [what we wanted].”

Besides Adam, Baranay and Lucero, the Hub team includes freshman Chris Moore, sophomore Eric Huang, juniors Rosie Conover and Amanda Jonovski, and seniors Annette Ruth, Cristin O’Connor and Dan Jacobs, who is also the photo editor at The Observer.

The Hub itself is public, but in order to post entries or comments, a Notre Dame ID is required. Barany said right now they are focusing on reaching out to undergraduates, faculty and staff but including alumni is a long-term goal.

“We’ve had a really positive response,” Adam said. “It’s a new way to engage in the discussions we’re already engaging in, but in a more public way.”

Baranay agreed.

“The Hub is about pushing yourself beyond what your familiar with, doing something more,” he said.

A launch party will take place today from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Dooley Room of LaFortune Student Center. Free Jimmy John’s sandwiches, T-shirts and books will be provided.

Check out the newly launched website at thehub.nd.edu